The Astrologicalle Judgmentes of phisick and other Questions: witnesses and dating

Forman wrote at least two versions of ‘The Astrologicalle Judgmentes of phisick and other Questions’, one of a number of manuals of astrological physic that he produced through the 1590s and 1600s.

The earliest extant version of the text, surviving in MS Ashmole 403, was underway from 1596: on folio 81v Forman refers to ‘the yeere 1596 in which yeere I Simon Forman Compiled this booke out of all my bookes of experience’. While the largest number of examples are from 1596 itself, however, there are some from the years 1598–1601; it is not clear whether Forman worked on it throughout the period 1596–1601, or if he completed the text largely in 1596 then supplemented it afterwards with these later examples. The copy that survives was produced for Richard Napier, largely by Gerence James and another assistant of Napier’s whose hand appears intermittently in the casebooks from 1605 on but most frequently between 1607 and 1612, so it may have been produced around that time.

The edition of The Astrologicalle Judgmentes of phisick and other Questions presented here is of a slightly later version, based on two substantially complete witnesses and an additional partial witness.

This text, which survives in MS Ashmole 389 and MS Ashmole 363, was begun on 16 September 1606 according to the work’s full title as given in Ashmole 389: ‘THE Astrologicalle Judgmentes of phisick and other Questions writen by Simon forman Dr of Astronomy and Phisick 1606 Lambeth the 16 of September. In which is Comprised his Experience for 20 yeares before And many yeares after.’ The examples used in this version include one or two from an earlier period than Ashmole 403’s (1583–1584), then a large number from later dates running up to 1609. Ashmole 389 is in Forman’s own hand, and must therefore have been completed some time between 1609 and Forman’s death in September 1611. Ashmole 363 is a neat copy produced by three scribes.

Because Ashmole 389 is in Forman’s hand, where its text and that of Ashmole 363 differ, 389 can usually be taken as the more authoritative version. In the edition, the readings and spellings from 389 are preferred where they do not include an evident mistake. This witness is, however, incomplete; several passages present in Ashmole 363 are missing from 389.

Ashmole 363 seems to be substantially complete, but a high number of copying errors, misreadings and misunderstandings mean that care must be taken with this witness. On the whole, points at which 363 diverges from 389 have been treated as variations and not corrected except where an error has resulted in nonsense. Although in general the readings in Ashmole 389 have been preferred, a number of significant gaps in that text have been supplied using Ashmole 363. A further difficulty is that in two places Ashmole 363 jumps backwards and repeats several pages, leaving us with duplicated passages; for the purposes of encoding this edition these overlapping passages have been treated as separate (partial) witnesses.

The edition also incorporates a very short excerpt copied by Napier, bound into one of his casebooks: MS Ashmole 174 (vol. 55).

The work is presented here in two versions, a normalised text and a diplomatic text. The normalised version silently expands abbreviated words, includes additions and removes deletions, and includes minor corrections; it also simply presents the text without noting variant readings, though it does indicate points at which a manuscript other than MS Ashmole 389 is being taken as the source. The diplomatic version presents an uncorrected text with additions and deletions marked as such and brevigraphs unexpanded; in places where the witnesses differ substantively, all the substantive variations are presented — differences of spelling or punctuation are not displayed in order to prevent the text from becoming unreadable.

To accompany Forman’s guide to astrology, Napier wrote an introduction entitled ‘A treatise touching the Defence of Astrology’; this introduction, whose purpose (as Forman put it) was ‘the Aunsweringe of All Invectives Against our profession’ (MS Ashmole 240, f. 103r), survives only in two heavily reworked draft fragments (in MS Ashmole 204, ff. 50–63 and MS Ashmole 242 ff. 187r–195v) and an incomplete neat copy produced by two scribes (MS Ashmole 242, ff. 187–96). The text of the scribal copy of this introduction is available to read.

Read The Astrologicalle Judgmentes of phisick and other Questions.

Read A treatise touching the Defence of Astrology.

Document last modified: 20 January 2016

Cite this as: Casebooks Project (The Astrologicalle Judgmentes of phisick and other Questions: witnesses and dating),, accessed 2017-02-25.